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How to Help Your Muscles Recover from a Tough Workout or Long Run

The Best Recovery Tips After a Long Run or Workout

If you are suffering from post-workout muscle pain there is more you can do to ease sore muscles than pop pills.  After a strenuous workout, your muscles are repairing from the strain, making you stronger. That is good but, in the meantime, there are several methods you can apply to alleviate the discomfort.

Remember the old acronym…R.I.C.E?  It still works! And there are some newer methods that you can easily apply as well.

  1. ICE

You will find that if you take the time to ice the sore area, you will spend less time in agony and be able to move with less pain sooner after a workout.

A few tips in regards to icing:

  • Make sure what you are using to ice is actually COLD. Too often people will use a pack that is just not cold enough. Your best bet is to use actual ice in a zip lock/bag or a bag of frozen peas or corn. Place a thin layer of fabric or a paper towel to ensure the ice will not burn your skin. Ice can be applied for 10 minutes.
  • Consider the area you are icing. If it is both your legs from the butt down then you may want to take an old fashioned yet effective route of an ice bath. While training for the Boston Marathon, after a few longer runs, I would fill my tub with tap cold water and just get in it. That was cold enough and I can testify to the fact that I was much less sore after my long runs and able to get back out there for the next training day without delay.
  • If using cold packs or bags of frozen vegetables, cover the joint completely to wrap the area properly, front/back and side/side. Too often I see people ice, for instance on a knee, who just plop a boo-boo pack on their knee cap. If you have sore knees, go completely around the entire knee and cover the area at least 6-8 inches above and below the knee.
  • My favorite for small spots—an ice cup massage. Freeze water in a small paper cup, peel of the top portion once the water is frozen, then turn the cup upside down on the area of soreness. You get the intense cold but you also get a massage at the same time. 5 minutes is good enough for this route but up to 10 minutes still good here too.



Applying an ace wrap, a neoprene sleeve or compression stocking/socks to the lower legs is an effective method of gently squeezing out the residual fluid build up from your muscle strain. Compression stockings or sleeves are the best as they cover your entire lower leg and some can cover your knee as well.



Why not elevate those legs at some point during the day or evening? Help your body out by using the benefit of gravity to allow the extra fluid build up to move closer to your core and back into vascular system for removal.



Foam rolling not only improves circulation to an area by application of the rubbing along a muscle group but it also can gently release and disband those tight knots amidst the muscle fibers. Research also supports the advantage of foam rolling to reduce DOMS-Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  Lightly rolling and working all the muscles of the lower legs in sweeping motions with minimal pressure for 30 seconds can be an asset to your recovery regime.



Water consumption replenishes lost fluid during the workout or run and it can also serve to flush out the byproducts or cellular repair. Don’t forget to drink more! If you weigh yourself pre-run naked and then weigh yourself post-run, you will notice a weight loss. That is fluid loss. You need to make up the difference by re-hydrating.



Consumption of foods that are carbohydrate rich, protein packed and contain some fat, can feed your muscles, replenishing the glycogen stores they lost and providing the body with the right mix that your muscles need to repair.  A go to drink post long run --chocolate milk.  Chocolate milk is reported to have the best mix of all the nutrients your body is looking for to clean up and repair the damage you did as well as refuel those glycogen stores for the next run.



Stretches to all the large muscle groups of the legs after a run is a great way to capitalize on a warm body that is primed to allow for improved tolerance to a stretch and greater muscle elasticity. Hold all stretches for at least 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times on each leg.



Lastly, if you have available funds or know a charitable friend or significant other, see if you can get a massage to the legs and lower back. A gentle massage can sweep the fluid build-up in the legs up into the core for removal by your vascular system and the tissue work, if done strong but comfortable, a massage can release tight muscles. 

For optimum post-run recovery, hitting all of these tips would be most beneficial but if you can start adding any of these to your post-run body management program, you may find improved recovery and less pain.

If you have any questions regarding your post-run recovery options or are finding that an area of your leg is just not improving after a workout or run, please call me for a free Discovery Visit.

I can perform a quick evaluation, discuss your goals for your workout, assess how the injury may be interfering with these goals, and determine if therapy may be able to help.

Call 860-507-7365 or email me at cindy@bodyfitphysicaltherapy.com.

And don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletters… and while you are on my website you will find more blogs regarding sports related injury and recovery tips. See https://bodyfitphysicaltherapy.com.

Good Luck! And don’t let soreness keep you from that next run or workout!